Some WoW Players Finding New Graphics Turn Old Friends Into Strangers

Some WoW Players Finding New Graphics Turn Old Friends Into Strangers

Over the past many months, Blizzard has been going through the painstaking process of redoing old World of Warcraft avatars, using graphical overhauls to help them get with the times. Some players, however, aren't happy that their characters of 10 years don't look like themselves. I asked Blizzard what they plan to do about that.

I remember the day WoW's new character models first went live on non-beta servers. I immediately got a text message from a good friend. She expressed sentiments that a lot of players did at the time (and still do): bewilderment, displeasure, heavy heartedness at the idea that somebody had sliced up elements of her online identity without consulting her.

For some, it was akin to botched plastic surgery. You look in the mirror for the first time, and what you see staring back is categorically not you. Not in the little ways, the ones that count. A glitch that altered some characters' skin tones didn't help.

Some WoW Players Finding New Graphics Turn Old Friends Into Strangers
Some WoW Players Finding New Graphics Turn Old Friends Into Strangers

"I considered my undead girl mysterious, regal, grotesque," my friend told me. "Now to me she looks tortured and angry. Previously regal night elves now 'prance' and people are upset."

"This is something very personal to us," she added. "Gameplay aside, a lot of MMOs rely on this emotional, personal connection [to characters]. How do you recreate something emotionally with people?"

She isn't alone. Even now, nearly a month after the fact, players are still debating over the new, graphically superior character models and speculating over changes to come.

Some WoW Players Finding New Graphics Turn Old Friends Into Strangers

Others are proposing their own alterations to races like Blood Elves, who still haven't received an update, in hopes that Blizzard will keep their characters' personalities intact.

Some WoW Players Finding New Graphics Turn Old Friends Into Strangers

On the upside, Blizzard has included the option to toggle off new character models, but you can only do it on an account-wide basis. It's not a selective thing. Beyond that, players can pay a small in-game gold fee to swap out things like hairstyle and facial expression.

What about those who want updated graphics and their characters' shining slivers of imagined personality intact, though? Well, the short answer is, Blizzard's working on it. And make no mistake: they anticipated this issue, even if they didn't end up entirely prepared for it.

"We were mindful of this from the outset as the single greatest risk and challenge in approaching the whole project," lead game designer Ion Hazzikostas told me during an interview at BlizzCon. "It's not just about adding resolution and fidelity. There is a certain personality to these characters. We were adding detail where detail didn't exist before. It's not about faithfully one-to-one reproducing something. Old faces were pretty much textures painted onto a flat surface. Now you have a genuine modelled face with cheek bones and lips that are rigged and animated. You can't just paint it on again. You have to reconstruct and add depth that wasn't there."

Some WoW Players Finding New Graphics Turn Old Friends Into Strangers
Some WoW Players Finding New Graphics Turn Old Friends Into Strangers

Blizzard tweaked and changed faces and animations a lot as people tried on their new virtual masks in beta testing, but the scale of the reactions to the update on live servers was unprecedented, according to Hazzikostas.

"Now millions of people have access to them instead of just thousands," he said. "There's a new wave of concerns. We're listening and paying attention. We don't view the current updated models as 100 per cent done or set in stone. We want to keep tweaking some things that are more universally considered to be awkward."

In the long-term, Blizzard plans to add more and more options for facial expressions, hair, and things of the like in hopes that eventually everyone will be able to recapture their old character's painfully curled lip or immaculately flared nostrils just so.

"The challenge there is, as always, something that one person loves, someone else loves," Hazzikostas explained. "So we can't just say, 'OK, we fixed it. Now that expression looks happier,' because then someone else will say, 'Well I didn't want it to be happy. I wanted to be surly.' So I think we're gonna go down the road of offering new options."

Some WoW Players Finding New Graphics Turn Old Friends Into Strangers

There have been some bumps in the road, but Hazzikostas contends that giving character models the nip/tuck treatment was still the correct thing to do in the grand scheme of things. "Ultimately," he said, "it was a band-aid we had to rip off, and I think the game as a whole is better for it. We will do everything we can to make sure people who have been playing for ten years still have that connection to their character."

I suppose only time will tell if he's right. And in the meantime, well, I checked in with my friend again today. She's cool with the new animations now, but the faces, in her eyes, are still all wrong. So I guess by that metric Blizzard is at least on the right track, even if they still have a long road ahead of them.


    The community of WoW will complain about anything.

    "I pay my $15 a month so do what I want and do it NOW!!!!11!one!"

      What do you expect. Majority of players are still american

      You can probably replace "community of WoW" with the word "people" and it would still be true, lol

      mm i don't think its that.

      I mean a lot of people have been playing these characters for years and someone changing it without consulting you it just seems weird to look on the same character you have been playing for so long and them being different.

      I experienced the same thing when I changed my warlocks race to orc, I just couldn't deal with it after about a month I had to race change back to a belf because it didn't feel right.

      think of it this way, you hair hasn't changed at all for years you have had the same haircut then suddenly after a drunk night out someone shaves it all off, of course its going to look strange and weird and take some getting used to to begin with.

        The 'without consulting' is a pretty loaded term which isn't a fair accusation.
        One-on-one consultation is flat-out impossible with literally millions of interested parties other than the only forum they DO have... the forums. And they did take that information under advice. They took advice from beta testing, too. The complaint that, "They didn't consult with me, out of 7 million," is patently absurd, particularly when in this case, I strongly suspect 'consult' is code for, 'do exactly what I want.' Consultation is not capitulation.

        And it's not like there wasn't a fucktonne of advance notice, either. And options to turn it off. In which case, actually, you can make it so they DIDN'T do anything to your character. It's almost ridiculous to have the option to preserve your character the way you like it, then NOT take that option and complain about it.

        It's very difficult to see what else could possibly have been done. Because a specific aspect one person imagined or extrapolated from their perception of that low-rez texture is not going to be universal, either.

          well in some cases they changed characters skin colours and things like that so it wasn't always small but I think that that particular issue has been fixed

      yeah to hell with those paying customers! who the hell do they think they are!

    You can change from the new models to the old ones in the system/interface menu's -_-!

    Obviously this was to attract new players, and I'd be interested in finding out how many new accounts are made due to the Expansion + overhaul.

    Eh, new models look great to me. So nice to see an orc actually be able to close his mouth.

      and that face they make while clapping is hilarious

    I quite like the new models looks but some of the new animations are a bit stupid.

    A few races now feel like they bounce rather than walk.

    The only thing I don't like is my rogue how it runs around, just looks so bad..

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